Wyandanch high school students are being offered a path to in-demand technology jobs through a new program that gives them the training needed to step into the workforce.
The Earn & Learn program provides students with twice-weekly after-school workshops in the fields of data analysis, social media strategy, engineering test technology and structured cable technology. The program, which began last month, offers training in the same fields to 18- to 24-year-old participants at the Wyandanch Youth Center, who get a $15 hourly stipend while they learn.
The program is a partnership between Suffolk County, Soter Technologies of Ronkonkoma and nonprofits Springboard Incubators Inc. of Hempstead and the Urban League of Long Island in Plainview.
“I think this is a model of what we need to do, which is leveraging partnerships and being really creative and nimble with curriculum and training that reflects the jobs available now,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who added that bringing the training into the community removes barriers such as transportation access.
Earn & Learn is a countywide initiative that has already been holding smaller workshops in Bay Shore, Brentwood and Bridgehampton, said county spokeswoman Marykate Guilfoyle. This is the first time the program is being done in a school, she said. It is funded through $100,000 from the county and $760,000 in federal and state grants.
There are 12 high school students and eight older participants enrolled in the workshops, which last from five to 12 weeks. Participants are also mentored and guided toward internships and jobs.
“We’re making sure our scholars have access to opportunity, mentorship, training and development,” said Shamika Simpson, Wyandanch’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “We want to give them an in-demand skill set that will lead them to gainful employment.”
Many young people in Wyandanch are unaware of the jobs available in technology, said Steven Lindo, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Springboard Incubators Inc., which works to increase access to technology and is providing the training.
“Our mission is to bridge not only the digital divide, but the knowledge divide in technology,” said Lindo, who teaches computer science at Hofstra University in Hempstead. He said his goal is to help young people become creators of technology, not just consumers, and to create pathways for students, particularly those who are Black and brown, who want to be in these fields but feel they cannot.
“It is a white-male industry in leadership positions,” said Lindo, who is Black. “Having lived through this for the past 30 years . . . I just feel it’s my obligation to bring this awareness and create these pathways.”
Wykeem Jordan, 17, recently completed the social media workshop, and although he wants to go to college for accounting, he said he thinks the skills he learned could be useful.
“I was thinking it could be a good backup plan,” Jordan said.
Also completing the course was Mikalah Knight, 17, who is undecided about her career and may next attend the structured cable workshop.
“I just want to try everything just to see what attracts me the most,” Knight said.
CLASS IS IN SESSION
Here’s what students are learning:
Data analysis: Participants are taught how to work with data to glean useful information, including using Python, Excel, Tableau and other programs.
Social media strategist: Students learn about managing and tracking content on social media pages and how to drive engagement through online marketing.
Engineering test technicians: Participants work to develop and execute testing procedures for products and new features in both software and hardware application.
Structured cable technicians: Students learn about installation, troubleshooting and design assistance with video and data cabling.
Source: Suffolk County